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Oral History

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Showing 1 - 20 from 33 entries

> Palestinian Women in Resistance
> Mary van Teeffelen-Morcos: Mary's anger
> Violette Lama, Rachel's Tomb area
> Talal Barham, Rachel's Tomb area
> Nicola, restaurant owner at Rachel's Tomb
> Michael and Linda Costa Halabi, Rachel's Tomb...
> Antoinette Knesevich
> Life in Beit Sahour : Jaela Andoni’s Story
> Alexandar Qamar, Aida Camp-Rachel's Tomb area
> Makram al Arja - Everest restaurant in Beit Jala
> Shliby, living at Rachel's Tomb area
> Interview with Claire, living in Rachel's Tomb area
> Marwan, living in the Rachel's Tomb area
> Melvina, on the history of the Rachel's Tomb area
> Dima, a young architect,, about the Rachel's Tomb area
> Antoinette Kinesivich about the Rachel's Tomb area
> Shafiq al-Hout's Story
> A Doctor in Galilee
> My Utopian Jaffa
> Some Personal Recollections: Sixty Years Since 1948
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Dima, a young architect,, about the Rachel's Tomb area
submitted by Arab Educational Institute

Conversations along the Wall near Rachel’s Tomb
By Nina Koevoets

The interviewee Dima is a young architect who has her office, once her house, three meters from the Wall at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.

I was studying in France when the Israeli government started building the Wall. They started after the 2nd intifada began. My parents lived here, in the office where we are right now. There were many problems because we had a military base next to our house. Now there is also a Wall in front of the house, as you can see from here. There was also a lot of shooting around the house. This whole area became closed; it became a ghost town. As there was a lot of shooting and we were ‘closed in’, my parents moved to a southern suburb of Jerusalem, called Beit Safafa. It would be a two-minute drive if the roads were open, but there is a checkpoint now.

The Wall was supposed to be built almost directly in front of our main door, so that only one person would be able to pass. My father was fighting every day to make the army move the Wall at least two meters from our door, so that at least a car could pass. Otherwise it would have been glued to our house. We were saying goodbye to our neighbours opposite of the streets, to the shops and to the sun. The houses on the other side of the street are still there. There are two walls on the street now: one on our side and one on our neighbours’ side and there is a road in between, so that Israelis can pass and go pray in Rachel’s Tomb. They can get on this road straight from Jerusalem, while we cannot go there.

Rachel’s Tomb was already closed since the mid-nineties. They closed the first part back then. After they closed the second part, we don’t see anything at all from it anymore, although it is also a sacred place for non-Jews. The area is dead and a bit scary in a way. During the day it is all right, but in the evening and night no one wants to be here… and this used to be the main historical road to and from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and all directions basically. So it was very noisy with cars and trucks; everything passed here.

When they were building the Wall I couldn’t be here. I wasn’t happy to be so far away, because although there were so many problems I wanted to be part of it, somehow. I felt anxious to know what was happening and was always trying to get some news. I always asked many questions; I had a strong need to know what was going on because I was far away.

My mom had a very hard time emotionally to leave the house. It was our everyday life and we have so many memories here. But there was shooting and the bullets even came into the house. Even with all this my mum wanted to stay. My father wanted to leave since he couldn’t sleep any more. It is so sad to see that the area was once very lively and that it is dead right now. It is suffocating. It is making you into a little piece of dirt until you will evaporate…

The Wall is a sign to say: “Go away from here”. It is intimidating. It is taking more land. If you go from the checkpoint toward Gilo you can see all these lands. Some of them were even my grandparents’ lands. The route of the Wall only serves their interest, like them being able to pray and the rest can go to hell. They make your life impossible. They put the Wall in between schools, neighbours, families… In some villages the water is on one side of the Wall and the village on the other side. They take whatever is interesting for them, like water, trees, agricultural and fertile lands. As you may know, it kills all economy, all development. It even kills ecosystems.

We left Bethlehem as we had shooting outside and inside the house. But we moved to Jerusalem for more than security problems; we are Jerusalemites and now it is the new policy that we have to live in Jerusalem, if we wish to maintain our Jerusalem ID. We always have had this ID card because we are born in Jerusalem, although we lived in Bethlehem all our lives. We have a lot of problems with this; they are checking if we really live in Jerusalem. They are changing their policies all the time and they do it as they like. It doesn’t matter if it is discriminating or not; it only matters if it serves their own interests. So now they let us choose; either you live in Jerusalem or you stay isolated wherever you are.

At one point they wanted to take away our insurance. They came into this house to see if we were not living here and they went into our house in Jerusalem. They looked even into the garbage bin, the laundry basket, the fridge and they took pictures of everything! If we had not really lived there they would have taken away our insurance and then our ID and we would have been left without anything. These are their policies towards Palestinian people, especially Jerusalemites. Jerusalem is quite a big issue for them. I think they want to get rid of the Palestinians in every possible way.

My parents worked and bought this house, they are the owners. Why should we rent a house somewhere else and pay extra to have social security? My parents always kept something aside for security; if anything happens we can be sure to be safe. That is how we could rent another house. And they also invested in a Green Card for the United States for instance. If anything happens here, we can go.

My father works here in Bethlehem in the office, so he comes in and out through the checkpoint every day. We also had problems here in the office; the soldiers tried to come in and broke all the windows. They tried to open the doors, but they are very strong, so they could not. It was pure vandalism. Like what they did in the Intercontinental Hotel nearby. It was all ruined and there was graffiti on the walls. Do they want to call that hotel a terrorist cell? They can just do that?! People are just working there. They even killed the fish! They broke all the computers, everything that was on their way. The soldiers are 18-year olds, just kids that want to fool around.

Fortunately we still have projects to work on in Bethlehem. My father has been working for almost 30 years now and is a well-established architect. He did projects everywhere, but because of all the restrictions in movement it is hard to go for example to a site that is in Ramallah or Nablus. So now we concentrate all the projects in Bethlehem, maximum in Jerusalem if they are small. We have to do so, otherwise you will loose your whole day with travelling. Architecture involves many people: contractors, workers etc. It is easier to have everything concentrated in one point. There is actually a lot of work here. But you always are constructing things with a risk: you do not know what will happen tomorrow. Some buildings that we have built have been partly destroyed. But we have to continue to live, so we build whatever is needed.

I do not know how to improve anything that was affected because of the Wall. This Wall is stronger than any of us. Of course it will not last forever. We have to put pressure on the rest of the world to make a change. They have to be aware and not just swallow everything they hear or see, but understand what is really happening.

The international community says that the Wall should not be here and that it is illegal, but they do not put any sanctions on Israel. This is the main problem. The Israeli government did not respect international law, nor any UN resolution or convention… And they still continue to violate these rules; they keep building the Wall, settlements and checkpoints. Of course people get mad! I have some hope, but if they are continuing with the settlements and the ghettos they are creating in the West Bank the future does not look bright. But the world is complex and nothing lasts forever.

Despite this we have to continue to resist. To continue with our daily life is already a way of resistance. Like coming here every day to the office. A lot of people would have taken their luggage and left to look for an easier life. Therefore I think that to live your daily life and come to your work is already a way of resistance. We have to continue to live, which a lot of us are doing of course, and to tell the world. Our problem is that we tend to get used to things, like passing the checkpoints. While waiting people start fighting each other, they get tensed and they start pushing, just because they want to pass quickly. But we have to fight together! We should not think only about ourselves. This is what the Israelis want of course. So we have to resist together, stick together; that is the only way to get somewhere.

Any activity can help. The Israelis basically want us to stop life, so any sign of life that we give is great, I think. It doesn’t have to be political. You can organize a concert, or another cultural activity. These activities make people want to stay here, as it enables them to do and see something else than daily troubles. I think it is good for the mind and spirit. There are many things happening, for example there was a dance festival in Ramallah not so long ago. Our existence is in danger; we are disappearing… But by these activities we can show the outside world that we exist and that we continue our lives. We have to reach the world and the world has to reach us.

Interview: June 2008

Nina Koevoets (24) lived in the West Bank for 3 months doing volunteering work for a non-violence organization in East Jerusalem and conducting interviews for AEI-Open Windows on the impact of the Separation Wall on people’s lives in Bethlehem. The personal stories reflect different thoughts, hopes, despair and ways of coping.

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